'I didn't vote to dump sewage in our rivers and sea' Hartlepool MP responds to criticism over Commons vote
Hartlepool MP JiIl Mortimer has defended herself after being criticised for voting against a proposal that would make it illegal for water companies to dump sewage into the country’s waterways.
Conservative Mrs Mortimer was one of 265 MPs who voted with the Government to reject an amendment to the Environment Bill which aimed to place a new legal duty on water companies to reduce raw sewage discharges into rivers and seas.
She has come in for criticism from several Hartlepool councillors and follows public concerns over Northumbrian Water being permitted to discharge sewage into the sea at Seaton Carew through a storm overflow pipe during times of heavy rain.
Mrs Mortimer issued a lengthy response on her official Facebook page, saying taxpayers and customers would have had to foot the bill said to run into billions of pounds.
Independent Seaton councillor Sue Little said: "I’m so angry about this.
"We have been working to improve our beach and rid it of the raw sewage that regularly washes up there, but the water companies hide behind the fact that it’s not illegal.
“This amendment could have changed all that. Mrs Mortimer has really let Hartlepool down.”
Fellow independent Seaton councillor Leisa Smith said she was “furious”, adding: “We’ve seen a whole host of dead wildlife, including gulls and crabs, washing up on our beach in recent weeks and we are still investigating.
"In any event we need to stop this dumping in our waters.”
Labour councillor for Burn Valley, Cllr Jonathan Brash, said: "Protecting our coastline and beaches is incredibly important to our town and I’m furious that our MP has put party before Hartlepool.”
Mrs Mortimer stated: “I didn’t vote to dump sewage into our rivers and seas. I voted to stop everyone in this country from having to foot the bill of between £150 and £650 billion."
She added: “The landmark Environment Bill will improve our water quality and ensure our rivers and seas become cleaner and better without bankrupting the water companies, our people or the country.”
Mrs Mortimer said while the proposed amendment sounded like a good idea, things were not straight forward.
She added: "The infrastructure simply does not exist to separate all foul water from surface water, so if we had a severe downpour the water companies would have two stark choices – allow our towns and cities to flood (with water containing sewage) or discharge into the rivers and sea and receive a hefty fine.
"Who would pay that fine or for cleaning up the misery after the flood? We would, either in our bills or in our taxes.
“The simple fact is our sewage systems date back nearly 200 years, and it is estimated that it will cost the gigantic figures above to sort it out. It will take time and a coherent plan of staged investment.
"For this reason, I voted to pass the Government’s comprehensive workable package of measures to sort out the issue.
"These place a legal duty on the Government to, amongst other things, publish a plan to reduce sewage discharges from storm overflows and produce a report on the mechanics of eliminating overflows entirely by September 1 next year.”
Mrs Mortimer added: “I am always a champion for Hartlepool, my constituents, and our beautiful rivers and coastline.”